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BEYOND THE PRESS BOX

Dip that chip and help support the Aggies

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Athletes, sports teams and even entire athletics departments are constantly seeking an edge, an advantage that sets them apart and helps them, well, win.

The New Mexico State University Athletics Department is no different and is taking an innovative approach to marketing its brand while appealing to its alumni and fans.

The Aggies already have a branded beer, whiskey, roasted coffee and even a scented candle that’s called Pistol Pete’s Smell of Victory. No, the candle doesn’t smell like napalm in the morning. It’s actually apple and maple bourbon.

Last week, NMSU Athletics Director Mario Moccia hosted a special event at historic La Posta restaurant in Mesilla.

A panel of judges tested salsas from six finalists, representing different chile producers from around the state. They came up with a recommendation for a hot salsa and a medium one, but the results weren’t announced.

The university still needs to hammer out details with the winning chile makers, Moccia said. They hope to come up with a name and a look and have the NMSU-branded salsa hit the shelves in the near future, he added.

A branded salsa, using New Mexico’s world-famous green chiles, adds another wrinkle to what Moccia and his Athletics Department are trying to do through a new category of licensing and merchandising called consumables.

“If you can create something that is new and create a significant revenue stream, it is just gravy,” Moccia said. “We are more bone than muscle. We don’t have a lot of fat.”

Moccia hopes that in the near future, revenue NMSU sports gets back from salsa, beer, wine and other sales of consumable products will total $100,000 a year.

That kind of dough may not make much difference to a school like the University of Texas at Austin, but it is a huge deal for NMSU, Moccia explained.

“When you buy a consumable product, the revenue we get back really helps our 400 student-athletes and our 16 teams,” Moccia said. “It doesn’t go into a special fund. It doesn’t just go to football. It goes to help all our student-athletes.”

Moccia said it’s certainly important to come up with innovative ways to raise money and market the university’s sports teams, but they want to make sure they are partnering with the right businesses, preferably New Mexico-based small businesses with ties to NMSU.

“We do behind-the-scenes work to make sure we aren’t just slapping our name on anything,” Moccia said. “We want to make sure it is a quality product. We know they will buy it once but we want them to keep buying it.”

Moccia said it is a fun way to tell the NMSU story.

“We have to be innovative and unbelievably proactive,” Moccia said. “We have to be more innovative than the other guys. It takes time to do all this stuff, but once you have the baby, everyone loves it.”

So the next time you plan to hoist a beer or dip a chip into some salsa, you might want to look for that familiar New Mexico State University mascot, Pistol Pete. You are helping NMSU stay competitive and field a wide range of sports teams for both men and women athletes.